Saturday, September 26, 2009

Life in the slow lane

Life meanders along slowly. Another day, another dollar. A little frustration, a big frustration. All punctuated by your interactions with fellow humans. The commas are the humorous interludes that join everything together and keeps you sane. Well, sort of. I mean really, how sane is sane? Is it not just a matter of somebody’s perception?
The internet woes continue. I have realised that there is no way that I’ll be able to market my books online. Not from here, at any rate. Not until the promised fibre optic cable arrives in Moshi. Apparently, it’s in Dar. However, knowing how things work in Africa, instead of getting cheaper and faster, I reckon it’ll probably get more expensive. Somebody will be wanting to make a mint out of the better service. Finally, after nearly seven weeks, we managed to get internet at home. That proved to be an uphill battle, as we had to rely on the school secretary to arrange everything. While she is a sweetheart, she is not the most efficient, and organised of people and has a tendency to see no rush in getting things done. For a start, she lost our application forms for the internet and neglected to communicate this to Patricia and myself. Patricia being my next door neighbour and the school’s Diploma Coordinator, who is also convinced I got the better house and garden. She is right though, although I keep telling her they are the same to make her feel better. Patricia is struggling to adapt to our African ways of doing things, having a sense of urgency that nobody understands here. As a result, she can be very negative at times which I have dubbed being in the ‘Patricia Zone.’ So, if ever we get frustrated, we say we are in the ‘Patricia Zone.’ She finds that highly amusing, but I digress. The secretary lost our forms. When we asked her why she never told us, she replied that she was waiting for when we next came to her office to tell us. Jeez, that could have been months! Finally, the fundi (Swahili for expert) arrived, but alas, he was unable to do anything, because for two weeks we had power cuts during the day. Well, we still have power cuts during the day, but at that time the power cuts just so happened to be every time he came to our houses to do the internet. Murphy’s Law. I tried to download an antivirus program, as the one I got with my laptop had expired. No such luck. Downloading anything chomps through your prepaid megabytes, so that you run out of money on your internet before you have downloaded anything. On the positive side, it is about four times faster than the school internet.
The school has open internet time on a Friday between 5 and 10pm, where you can plug in your laptop and upload upgrades for free. All week I waited for Friday, excited that finally I’ll be able to put Skype and an antivirus on my laptop. It’s amazing how such minor things can make you excited. It doesn’t take much, does it? Anyway, I started downloading AVG no problem. It took ages, as the school internet downloads stuff at about 7kb/s which is painfully slow. Two and a half hours later, and I’d downloaded 89% of the antivirus. Then there was a power cut. The three minutes for the school to turn on the generator, meant that I lost everything. There are no words for the anger and frustration I felt. It was like I had wasted two and a half hours of my life. Okay, I did get Skype, but still have no antivirus. Several bad words poured forth from my lips. However, I did get to have a good long chat with the principal, and his house is just off campus but he has the school internet. Unlimited of course, as you do when you are principal. He told me how he downloads all his movies and TV series using BitTorrent. He just sets it all up at 10pm and lets it download all night long. So, he’s promised to download season 5 of Grey’s Anatomy for me and Season 3 of The Tudors. When he’s done with that, I’ll get him to download Bones from series 3 on. It’s amazing, TV series one couldn’t be bothered with before, become the highlight of your life. Something to look forward to and chat excitedly about with anybody else who’s watched them. I’d brought Bones season 2, Grey’s Anatomy Seasons 1-4 and The Tudors Seasons 1 and 2 with me from China. I’d bought them awhile ago, but had never been bothered to watch them. With no TV, Siobhan and I quickly became addicted, racing through the episodes, as even if you have no power, you can watch until the battery goes dead on your laptop.
The power cuts and frequency of them are becoming a bit annoying. Although, there are times when it is exciting, and you feel like you’ve gone back in time and are living in the thirties, something like Out of Africa. It is often difficult for Siobhan to do her homework, because you can only work by candle light for a little while before your eyes start to take strain. I might have to invest in a little generator. I bought a small TV yesterday for Siobhan’s birthday. I’d bought her a Wii in China, and she hasn’t been able to play it since she’s been here. I’m going to wait awhile before getting cable. We’ve also added two puppies to our household, two little sisters, Labrador German Shepherd crosses. I don’t like male dogs because they pee against the car tires and the smell of their hormonal pee is nauseating.
I had my first visitor, Linda, who worked with me in Nanjing and is now working in Khartoum. It was great seeing her again. Poor thing though, she got up the Friday morning at 3am to fly here, only to find that her plane had been cancelled. So, she arrived a day late. Then when she was due to leave here again and fly to Zanzibar, we went to the airport and a gut feeling told me to go inside the airport with her and not just drop her off. A good gut feeling, because her flight did not even appear on the board. When I asked, I was told it would appear later, but I asked around some more and was directed to the Air Tanzania office, who told me that her flight was cancelled, and she should return the next day. Although friendly and apologetic, the Air Tanzania staff did not seem concerned in the slightest about the inconvenience they had caused to Linda and some of the other passengers who had been waiting inside the airport for over two hours. They had forgotten to put up the flight on the board with a cancelled message. Why am I not surprised? Anyway, it give Linda and I the chance to polish off the last remaining bottle of a South African Red.
Because of Eid, last weekend was a long one. We decided to head out to the Marangu Falls, which is on the side of Mount Kilimanjaro. Absolutely spectacular and breathtakingly beautiful. I’m taking my class back there on Thursday for a field trip. We’re doing a unit of inquiry on Explorers, and I’m going to drop them off in groups of 4 accompanied by an adult, with a compass and a grid, and they’re going to have to find their way down to the waterfall, map their route plotting landmarks and their coordinates. Basically, just practise being explorers. Tomorrow, we go on a teacher outing to the Arusha National Park to check out the wildlife. We probably haven’t explored as much as we should have. We have been out to the TPC Sugar Plantations twice for BBQ’s with some South Africans, and to watch some of the trinations rugby games. I’m so proud of my Springboks winning the Trinations! The outdoor life and BBQs with friends does make this an awesome lifestyle. Even with the internet woes and power cuts. I could never live in a place like China again. Mind you, who knows what lies in the future? I’m off to Mumbai in November for a workshop. I think all the humanity over there might be stressful, so many people everywhere, as life here is relatively carefree and unstressed. Like today my stress is, should I buy my meat first before going to the market? Should I have a second cup of coffee? This kind of life is addictive. Like Grey’s Anatomy, Bones and The Tudors. I hope the principal remembers to download the episodes for me!
Otherwise, all is well. Both Siobhan and I have been struck by a particularly virulent strain of flu which swept through the school, decimating numbers. I had 8 kids away from my class on Thursday, and 5 kids away yesterday. I have been soldiering on at school, but Siobhan has spent the last three days at home, sleeping, coughing, blowing her nose and making bead necklaces. Well, I guess that I had better get myself towards myself, feed the puppies, have that coffee, shower and get dressed. I’ll try and update my Facebook with my latest photos. Last time, it wouldn’t upload the photos, the internet is too slow. Mind you, it depends on how many people are using it at school, as that is what slows it down and why it is so much faster at home. Keep an eye out for my Facebook photos, I’ll post the link when I manage to get them on!
And the ants appeared to have left - until last night when they reappeared on my kitchen sink!

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